The commission for conservation of Antarctic marine living resources (CCAMLR) in an extraordinary meeting held at Bremerhaven, recently, failed to reach any concrete agreement on the two proposals put forward for creation of marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Antarctic. CCAMLR’s members are drawn from 24 countries and the European Union.

The meeting was a follow up to last year’s CCAMLR meeting in Hobart, Australia, which also concluded without any consensus on marine protected areas for the Antarctic.

Two proposals

The two proposals were the same as the final versions at the close of last year's CCAMLR meeting. The US and New Zealand proposal calls for CCAMLR to designate a Ross Sea MPA of 2.3 million square kilometres including a ‘fully protected’ area of 1.6 million square kilometres.

The second proposal from Australia, France and the European Union would designate seven marine protected areas in East Antarctica covering about 1.63 million square kilometres.

At Bemerhaven, this year, the proposals would have been carried forward to implementation, had not one member Nation — Russia — voted against them and scuttled the whole process.

Asked why the Russians acted in such a manner, Blair Palese — Communications Director, Antarctic Ocean Alliance (AOA), a coalition of environmental groups, noted in an email to this correspondent: “It is very unclear why Russia blocked because they asked for the special meeting in Bremerhaven specifically to allow the proponents of the two proposals to put forward all of the science — which they did in a very thorough manner and which was agreed and supported by the Scientific Committee of CCAMLR including Russia. In other words, as part of that committee, Russia agreed that what was presented was the best available science and then went on to say they did not support the designation of the proposals — a bold contradiction to be sure.”

Russia, apparently came to the meeting with no intention of supporting the passage of either of these two proposals and used stalling and delaying tactics throughout the meeting.

The wastage

They wasted a great deal of money, effort and time on the part of all of the CCAMLR members that came to the meeting in good faith to negotiate an outcome.

What remains to be seen now is whether anything can be done in the weeks before the next meeting in October in Hobart. It is possible CCAMLR has reached an impasse it cannot overcome. Can it deliver on its conservation mandate and commitments going forward? That is the big question.